‘Deflated’ Richard Agar exits as Leeds Rhinos hunt for new coach

LEEDS RHINOS have begun their search for a new coach with no timescale or specific candidates in mind, chief executive Gary Hetherington says.

Head coach Richard Agar stepped down yesterday, after almost three years in charge.

Jamie Jones-Buchanan has been appointed as his interim successor, working with another of Agar’s former assistants Sean Long and performance director Richard Hunwicks.

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Last Friday’s 26-12 defeat at Salford Red Devils was Rhinos’ fifth in six games this year, leaving them third from bottom in Super League and Hetherington admitted: “We didn’t expect to find ourselves in this position.”

Former Leeds Rhinos coach Richard Agar. Picture: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com

He said: “It will be a pretty exhaustive search and there are no red lines, we start with a blank piece of paper.

“We are looking for somebody to come in and take over the current squad of players and create an impact within the club

“It needs a person with special qualities, ability, desire and determination – all the facets you look for.”

There are still 21 league games to be played this year and Hetherington insisted he is confident Leeds can climb into the play-offs positions.

“There is no time scale on when it needs to be concluded by,” he added. “Jamie Jones-Buchanan will step up from assistant-coach and take on the responsibilities of interim head coach and I don’t know for how long.

“I am pretty sure he has got the personality and character to make a difference.

“We have got a very strong playing squad and results are capable of being turned around,” added Hetherington.

Jones-Buchanan’s first match as interim-coach will be a Challenge Cup sixth round tie at home to Leeds’s fierce West Yorkshire rivals Castleford Tigers, on Saturday.

The 40-year-old, Leeds-born former Great Britain forward played 421 games for Rhinos from 1999-2019 and joined the backroom staff after hanging up his boots.

Hetherington said: “It is an opportunity to impose his personality, character and ideas on the role. It will be interesting to see how Jamie goes; I personally think he will go extremely well.”

Agar, who had been in charge since May, 2019, spoke at a press conference yesterday, less than an hour after his decision to step down was announced.

The former Hull and Wakefield Trinity coach admitted he was no longer getting the best out of what he regards as a good squad.

“It hurts, I am upset and deflated, but I have taken a decision which is for the betterment of the club,” he said. “I, plain and simply, feel I’ve not had a big enough impact on the team.

“As head coach, looking at form and performances, I feel I needed to have a stronger impact on where we are and what we’re turning out.

“I think, perhaps, I have taken the team as far as I can and they may well need a fresh voice at this moment in time.

“I feel, in the best interests of the team and the club, a new voice and some fresh ideas might help them get out of their poor performances.”

“It’s a great job and the best club I’ve worked at by a country mile,” Agar said.

“I’d expect Gary’s phone to be ringing off the hook and I’m sure there will be some great coaches and great people sticking their hands up. It’s going to be a really good job to take on.”

Agar is poised to remain at Rhinos in an as yet unspecified role.